Located at the end of the Snow Mountain Range is the Chiaoshi meditation center in Yilan. It has the most panoramic view among all the meditation centers in Formosa. Facing the seemingly boundless Pacific Ocean, where the sky and water are joined together at the horizon, one immediately feels that one's heart is opened up, and merges into a vast ocean of joy. Looking at the scenery afar, the limitless sky with surging clouds staggered like thousands of mountains is like a Chinese painting of a heavenly world. A few years ago, I was very lucky to have an opportunity to retreat here for a period of time. What I experienced was something that cannot be expressed with words, a true experience of God's love.
That year I was sent to Japan on official business. Due to my careless mistakes in handling my work in Tokyo, I was called back to the Yilan Center for refuge. That was the most unforgettable time of my life. The climate in the mountain areas in Yilan is affected by the northeast wind during the winter. It rains a lot, more than twenty days out of a month. Every day the mountains are surrounded by the winding clouds and pockets of mist, and attacked by the strong bone-chilling winds. I ate only one meal a day, and spent the rest of the time meditating in my tent. The more I meditated, the more progress I would make, and the more I could appreciate what Master used to say, "Everything that I teach you is the outcome of my own blood and sweat experiences. Therefore, remember my words until the day you die." It was only after going through the experience myself that I could even more appreciate Master's good intentions.
The twinkling stars filled the night sky. As I gazed at the stars, I wondered where my hometown was. The Lanyang Plain down the mountains was lit with a sea of colorful lights. That was the mundane world, a world that binds people to the suffering of birth and death. I was very happy for myself to be lucky enough to have escaped from it half way. But, when I thought about Master rejecting me as a disciple, I wept in sorrow, and then began to cry out loud with all my heart. Being apart from Master, I felt so helpless, all on my own with no one to depend on. It was like having fallen into a roaring, splashing current that could swallow me at anytime. To be repudiated by Master as Her disciple would be as shocking as thunder in a clear day, something that I knew not how to endure. Before initiation I didn't appreciate how precious the true love of God was. After initiation I was always under the protection of the heavenly light and sound. To sever the relationship with this force was the hardest thing one could imaging. I felt helpless, insecure and a deep despair welled in my heart. All of a sudden, a prince of heaven had become a commoner. Oh! God! If we hadn't known this love, I wouldn't cherish it. But, I had it before and I was about to lose it. How sad and painful it was!
Each time I thought about it, I would cry. Every two or three days I would cry my heart out. I prayed and begged the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions to help me get my Master back. I could not live for one more minute, one more second, without my Master; I would rather die. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and the sound of my feet stamping broke through the silence of the night sky. Almighty God, Amita Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, Quan Yin Bodhisattva, Mahasthama Bodhisattva, Manjusri Bodhisattva, Bhaisayya Buddha, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, and all the great masters of the Ten Directions of the past, present and future, several times a day I prayed and begged them to bring my Master back. Day after day, before meditation, I was in tears when I prayed to Master beseeching Her not to leave me, not to abandon me.
Perhaps, God and all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas couldn't stand my intense pleading and finally granted me my wish. After fourteen days, I dreamed that many fellow initiates came to see Master. Master was in a room giving blessings to four or five initiates. I immediately kneeled down and asked to be blessed. I said, "Master! I haven't seen You for a long time." Looking at me lovingly, She touched my forehead for a minute to give me Her blessings. A warm and strong electric current ran through my whole body. Immediately, I felt my wisdom, my spirit and my body change completely, as if I was reborn. This comfortable and happy force field was more intense than when Master was blessing me in person. This inconceivable change suddenly elevated my vibrations to a higher level. This reminded me of what Master once said, "We are going to be living in a world of high level of vibrations. Master will elevate our vibrations to the same high level as in that world. This way we will be able to live there. Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to stand the vibration at that high level of existence."
Suddenly, I realized that Master was fully aware of my heavy karma in Tokyo, so She found an excuse to send me back for a retreat to cleanse myself. Master guides and teaches us like a stern father and a kind mother. Who can thoroughly understand the concerns of the parents? I know that Master will never forsake us. Master once said, "God has no attachment, therefore, God has no karma." Perhaps, He is only attached to His children!
Master often reminds us not to be attached to Her physical form, because Her power is omnipresent and will teach us from within. I have had profound experiences in this regard. Let me illustrate this through my learning process of being an interpreter.
I attended the international seven-day retreat in Costa Rica a few years ago. Being young and innocent, I took on the job of the assistant interpreter because I could speak a little bit of English. But I ended up making some mistakes and Master had to correct them Herself. Master had made some "Divine Vegetarian Punch" for everyone. She was so loving that She poured some punch and gave it to me Herself. Master asked me, "What language are you interpreting?"
I tried to reply very `humbly', "I am `learning' to interpret English."
Master laughed, "Still `learning'? And you dare to interpret my English!"
At that time, I couldn't understand what Master meant, and it was not until years later that I gradually realized that it is extremely difficult to do Master's work. This is because everything that Master does is to benefit all beings, and we only ruin things if our spiritual practice is not good enough. We cannot do Master's work if our attention span is too short or we are too egotistic. I have slowly realized that Master helps us to grow up by allowing us the opportunity to work and serve others.
Later, I had more chances to interpret for Master, and from Her lectures, I understood that She wanted me to "be ready". So I began to work diligently to improve my English and to scrutinize every aspect of my life and my spiritual practice. Master once said that most of Her interpreters did a good job during the first half of the session, but not later on. I knew that this had much to do with the ability to concentrate. Normally when I meditated, I could hardly concentrate for a few minutes; but in order to interpret well, I pushed to train myself to be able to concentrate for several hours at least. Also, to be a good interpreter for Master, it appeared that I had to change my entire being; every person, everything and every incident that I had come in contact with, all became mirrors reflecting the qualities in me which needed to be improved. And I had already begun to understand deeply, that if these imperfect qualities were not changed, I would not be able to perform well in Master's work.
At the same time, I could clearly see that Master had been silently arranging many opportunities for me to learn. They included my linguistic capacity, my ability to respond and even training me to relax and let go of tension. I had been a very nervous person since I was young; my whole body was often very tense and unable to relax. Once a person is unable to relax, he is unable to concentrate and wastes much energy which not only makes him tired but also lowers his ability to respond quickly.
By letting me edit both Chinese and English articles and produce the cassette tapes, Master cultivated my linguistic capabilities. From watching Master's video tapes I learned to interpret; through gradual training, She built up my confidence. It felt like a mother helping a small child learn to walk, She guided me step by step, and afterwards, She allowed me to come in contact with important events. Interestingly though, whenever I was "not ready" to do a certain job, I would suddenly lose the opportunity to do it. "Not ready" included my being too tense, my language capacity being inadequate, my lack of confidence, insufficient meditation, or being too egotistic, etc.
However, Master also let me observe the prices She had to pay for the consequences of my being "not ready". Sometimes, the sacrifice was the audiences' opportunity to absorb Master's teachings, and the invisible karma created was quite amazing. Because every word that Master says is the Truth, even if She is just chatting along, all are words of wisdom; to misinterpret a word would interrupt others' comprehension. For example, one day Master was happily displaying a corner of Her dress, and said that She had especially made it a round corner, representing fullness or perfection. In that instant, I couldn't think of a way to relate round and perfection in English, so I skipped it. Later, a sister initiate unwittingly mentioned that during Master's talk of that particular day, what she learned the most was the part about "perfection". I was startled to realize that the fundamental essence of translation is to abide by the original words, and not to use our ego to add or delete any words spoken by Master. However, this is very difficult.
It is because the job of interpreting is very difficult that I understood the path of spiritual practice is not easy. In the past, I often stopped trying to do a job better when I scored 70 to 80 percent, thinking that it was good enough to be proud of. It was just like my level of spiritual practice; I got stuck there. Recently, Master showed me through another instance, that to score 70 to 80 percent is just a minimum requirement, and to reach professional standards you must score 80 to 90 percent. This 10 percent would not be an easy breakthrough, and from 90 to 91 percent would be much more difficult, and it would get even more difficult from then on.
From a small incidence in translation, we can see that Master is omnipotent and omnipresent, and She is always guiding us along. I believe that Master will guide us through the toughest of all difficulties. This is why it's so wonderful to have a living, enlightened master! Thank You, Master!
Master often tells us, "We are not this physical body, not this mind. Our original self is eternal; it was never born, and it shall never die." With Her teachings and through our meditation, Master helps us break through the concept of time and space. She also educates us quietly through the occurrences of our daily lives.
I remembered that soon after I was initiated several years ago, I heard Master said, "Among fellow initiates, we address one another as elder brother or elder sister. This is because some of you have already practiced in past lives and so we can't determine a person's spiritual level by the time of his initiation in this lifetime." Therefore, whenever I saw our fellow initiates who had just met calling each other elder brother or elder sister, I would have a feeling that we were elevated beyond time and space. Yes! We seem to feel that our daily thoughts and deeds are all for this life, and therefore, we are bound to this lifetime; this is where the problem lies. Master always teaches us through the bits and pieces of our daily lives to break through some of our preconceptions which we had thought to be rational and true but which actually got us stuck in a certain corner. Whenever I clearly come to understand the true meaning behind a certain concept, I am delighted because it feels like an obscure layer is being peeled away, and an obstacle is being overcome.
Since then, I have talked to Master in my heart, "Oh! Master! In order to follow such a divine and supreme path, I must continue to break through many preconceptions. In cases when I have doubts due to my ignorance during the course of my practice, please do not abandon me! I wish to be enlightened, so please let me come to understand the millions of 'whys' about life that I have in my heart."
After I joined the Quan Yin practitioners group, I was happily working for Master. But before long, I stumbled my way home! I cried in my heart to Master about my frustration with the other initiates. While I sharply criticized others, I was unable to see my own faults, my own sharp edges and corners, which also hurt others badly. I was like a spoiled child complaining to Master, "I know You are a great enlightened Master. I just want to follow You, but I don't want to be a part of this large group."
Then while I was meditating, a thought came to me: "Ever since you were young, haven't you quarrelled with your sisters numerous times and made up with them later? If you could forgive your sisters each time after a quarrel, then why can't you accept the brothers and sisters, who are learning under the same Master and who hold the same ideals as you? Everyone is trying to learn!" Oh! Master! Then I understood, no matter what, this group was my family! My heart was relieved, and I felt so good!
I recalled that the last time I attended the seven-day retreat in San Di Men, I saw that there were lots of round pebbles of all sizes. A brother initiate said, "I hear that these stones fell down from the mountain above. They originally were very rough, with sharp edges and corners, but when the rainy season came, water flushed on them and made them tumble around and bump against each other. As the years went by, they all became smooth and round." When I heard that, I thought that how I could ever leave this fortunate spiritual group where Master, the Holy Mother, took care of us constantly. With Master's love, teaching and guidance, and by practicing with my brothers and sisters and by learning with them, I knew that this would be the best home for me to learn and grow! My heart was blooming with happiness again!
I heard about Master Ching Hai when I was in Au Lac. I really became Her disciple when I came to Canada. At first my father agreed to let me and my mother get initiated. He seemed to change his mind later and was hard on me with no apparent reason when I contacted my fellow initiates or read Master's books. I thought that these were just challenges to see if I had faith in Master, then I began to encounter some difficulties in attending the group meditations.
I used to keep Master's books and tapes in my drawer carefully along with my initiation card. One day when I got home, I saw my photo was torn and its pieces were cluttered on the table, and Master's tapes and books had disappeared. I was choked with tears. I had no words to describe my surprise at my father's act, and I felt like there were hundreds and thousands of needles going through my heart. But I told myself: My father could tear one or hundreds or even thousands of the initiation cards, but he could not tear the card that my Master transmitted into my heart, mind and soul. I prayed to Master to gave me more strength to endure all of the upcoming challenges.
I tried to attend the one-day retreat in Ottawa in December. I always prayed to Master to gave me more strength to overcome all difficulties. After the retreat was over, I was worried because I was away from home for one day and one night. My fellow initiates reminded me to pray to Master and everything would go smoothly.
I have a younger sister. I used to be afraid of her because she unintentionally or intentionally told my father about my meditation practice and then I would have a bad day. But today after my one-day retreat, she embraced me when I got home. I was surprised and also worried because this kind of warm love didn't happen every day. I went to my room to listen to Master's tapes and prayed for help. A few minutes later I discovered that in the next room, my sister was also interested in listening to Master's tape. I closed my door and meditated. She seemed to be very angry because I didn't let her listen to Master's tape. She immediately ran into my room but when she saw that I was meditating, she went out and did not say anything. After my meditation was over, she came and asked me if I had more new tapes. I was surprised and felt sorry for her because I had no more. That night she could not sleep. My mother told her to recite Buddha's name. She recited Buddha's name a few times and without her knowledge she started reciting "Namo Ching Hai Wu Shang Shih" and felt asleep.
When she awoke the next morning, she tried to remember why she recited Master's name and had a peaceful night. She started believing in Master. One day, in a computer typing class, she prayed to Master because she used to be very weak at typing, then she typed very fast. Her teacher did not believe it. He asked her to type it again in the front of him and she again typed very fast. He asked her how she typed that fast? She told him she did not know the reason, but in her heart she knew that she recited Master's name and prayed to Master for help. Her belief in Master improved every day; she began her vegetarian diet and practiced the Convenient Method. Today she really became an would-be initiate; beside the sister relationship I will have another fellow initiate and another companion. I think the strength of the group meditation and Master's blessing gave me this gift. After that one-day retreat, I really have more strength and have good effects on my family and everything goes smoothly.
I know, Master, You are a living Buddha, a living Master and are everywhere. You always help me and my fellow initiates to overcome all difficulties in this world and also bear karma for all of us sentient beings. From my sincere heart I thank You.